Looking for some amazing spots to use your inflatable SUP on Florida’s Gulf Coast? The area around Pensacola and the greater, Florida Panhandle, has plenty to offer anyone wanting to use an inflatable SUP.
Below are just some of the amazing spots you can paddle your inflatable SUP.
Bayou Texar /17th Avenue Wayside Park
There are two drop off sites we recommend for this location that offers two very different experiences. We recommend the boat launch behind Marina Oyster Barn or near the Pensacola Graffiti Bridge. If you enter behind Marina Oyster Barn be mindful of boats entering and exiting the boat launch. You may want to make sure you have a high-visibility jacket just to be on the safe side. This is a good way to make sure you are seen on your inflatable SUP.
If you go north, you will see large beautiful homes near the shoreline and usually other inflatable SUP paddlers. Dropping off near the Graffiti Bridge you have the option of exploring Pensacola Bay, just make sure the waters are calm before paddling. There is also an area you will pass that is great for pelican watching. There is plenty of wildlife in this area so be sure to keep an eye both above and below the water.
The area between Graffiti Bridge and Twelfth Avenue Bridge also has some beautiful homes and boats to check out, as well as a some incredible views across the bay. This is a great spot for a sunset paddle.
Blue Angel Recreational Park
This is a great place to take your kayak and witness the electrifying sunsets on Perdido Bay, and it is cradled in between Alabama and Florida. Ensure you get out there for the afternoon and you will enjoy one of the best sunsets you have ever seen from your inflatable SUP. This area never has a lot of water traffic, so it makes for a very calming and secluded paddle.
Pensacola Beach ‘Soundside’
One of the best spots to experience the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The ocean is nice and calm on this side, unless the wind is strong that day. Even then, it doesn’t make for a difficult paddle on an inflatable SUP. You can launch your inflatable SUP right next to, Red Fish Blue Fish, which has a very beautiful postcard appeal. Loom out for the palms and sailboat on the white sand of this beautiful beach.
Going along the coastline you experience views of the local restaurants and bars, people enjoying the great outdoors, pelicans, white sands, the pleasure docks, the Bob Sikes Bridge and many other watercraft. This is another area where wearing a high-visibility jacket would be safer, so the motorized boats do see you on your inflatable SUP.
Sanders Beach Complex
The Sanders Beach launch is located at ‘1000 S I St’ and has a variety of views to experience on Pensacola Bay. One option is paddling your inflatable SUP towards the nearby marina to enjoy looking at the many incredible yachts and pleasure boats. There is also a huge population of Pelicans here and watching these masters of fishing at work makes for an eye opening experience. You will also be able to explore the nearby wetlands, full of local wildlife and plants. If you are feeling adventurous you can head towards Wahoo stadium, where you will experience a mile or so of crystal clear water, before reaching the deep blue of the open ocean.
If you want to see plenty of bird life from your inflatable SUP, this is the place. There is a large variety of nesting shorebirds, winter ducks, numerous marsh birds and great blue herons, as well the obligatory local Pelicans. You have a boat ramp with access to the Intracoastal Waterway as well as a kayak hand launch located near the observation tower to enjoy the sites at Long Pond and Grande Lagoon.
You will want to be careful launching at the kayak hand launch as these waters have been known to be shallow and you might have to be prepared to push your inflatable SUP out over the sandbanks. After this it’s smooth paddling, with beautiful views of sandy beaches, lots of wildlife and the salt marshes.
Park entry costs $4 for a single occupant vehicle and $6 for vehicles with between two and eight passengers.
A very helpful app to find launch locations is called Launch Sites. You can also visit their webpage www.paddling.com to view them. This app is geared towards kayak paddlers but is also very useful if you are using an inflatable SUP.
Fort Pickens State Park
If you are looking for a spot to explore on your inflatable SUP with some historical value, look no further. There is a fee required for State Park entrance, as this site is maintained by the National Park Service.
The Fort itself is the most popular destination. It was originally built to defend Pensacola Harbor from invaders, but during the Civil War, it was manned by Union troops, who used it to attack the nearby Confederate manned Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee. The fort also has some notoriety for being a prison for the captured Native American, Geronimo.
In addition to the fort, there are relatively uncrowded beaches here, camping, and a few nature trails. However, keep a wary eye out for bird nesting sites, which are illegal to disturb. You will be able to check out the Fort and all the areas local wildlife from he deck of your inflatable SUP.
Fort Pickens Gate Park
This is a quiet area of water for paddling an inflatable SUP, with man-made snorkeling reefs and a great hotdog stand. This out of the way beach is located just before the Fort Pickens gate, and is one of the best beaches on the island. It has restrooms, lifeguard protection, ample parking, good waves on the gulf side, calm conditions on the sound side, lots of white sand and shells, and has far fewer people than the busy Casino Beach.
Make sure not to walk into the Fort Pickens park boundary, though paddling on the water you can access this area. Paddling your inflatable SUP along the shoreline further to the west, will lead you into Gulf Islands National Seashore property. Here you will be able to see many of the areas rarest seabirds and wildlife. Beware of nesting bird areas and stay out of those areas.
Little Sabine Bay
One of the best locations for people to learn how to use an inflatable SUP, is on Little Sabine’s protected shallow waters. This bay is protected from string winds and currents making it ideal for those just learning to paddle.
Quiet Water Beach
Located on the sound side of the island beginning behind the Portofino Boardwalk running west/north-west along the sound. This area has covered picnic pavilions with grills and public restrooms with outdoor showers. There are also lifeguards in certain areas. Several restaurants and bars are within walking distance. Get here early and stay all day.
The beach here is narrow, and since the island blocks the waves from the Gulf of Mexico, the water is quiet, with little-to-no waves or rip currents. This makes it an ideal spot to bring the kids, to paddle your inflatable SUP and enjoy the water.
A favourite paddling spot with the locals. Parking is quite limited, so get there early and grab a great spot on Santa Rosa Sound. There are no amenities or facilities, so if you are planning to spend the day, make sure you come prepared.
Naval Live Oaks
Located in Gulf Breeze on Santa Rosa Sound, this state park is free to the public with covered and uncovered picnic tables, grills, bathrooms and outdoor showers. The Naval Live Oaks Reserve, now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, was America’s first government tree farm. The Naval Live Oaks Reserve section of Gulf Islands National Seashore is open daily and features a visitor center, interpretive trail and winding nature trails that lead along the shores of both Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay.
This is an incredible location to ladle your inflatable SUP, with options on both sides of the Sound. No matter what direction the wind is blowing, you can always find a nice clean piece of water to paddle.
Shoreline Park – South
Gulf Breeze’s largest park spanning 105 acres complete with picnic tables, restrooms, outdoor showers, fishing pier, swimming area, a large gazebo, boat ramp, and nature trail. This is a great location for a day of paddling your inflatable SUP, hanging at the beach and finishing with a sunset barbecue.
Big Sabine Bay
Go back in time to an era when development was sparse. This beautiful coastal sanctuary is a must-visit jewel in the Pensacola Bay Area. Getting here is for the more adventurous, as it’s not as accessible as some of the other locations we have mentioned. You will have to park at Pensacola Beach and walk across the sand with your inflatable SUP, then paddle across the bay. We promise the effort is worth it though. (An inflatable SUP is a perfect choice for this adventure.)
Big Sabine Bay is on the northern side of Santa Rosa Island in Santa Rosa Sound. The area is predominantly a salt marsh with many shallow creeks to explore. The marshes and wetlands are a sanctuary for wildlife. This is where 80-90% of the seafood we enjoy, start their lives, before making their way into the ocean.
From your inflatable SUP you will be able to see a huge variety of birdlife such as herons, gulls, osprey, bald eagles and occasionally owls. You may even witness Bald Eagles taking fish right in front of you. Underneath the water you’ll paddle over fiddler crabs, hermit crabs, gulf shrimp and more. You will also see many of the fish common to the area, like killifish, flounder, mullet, redfish, sea horses, and occasionally sharks and sea turtles. Manatees have also been seen enjoying the grass beds in the area.
Located at the mouth of Bayou Grande near the Pensacola Naval Air Station is a small sandy Island that’s only accessible by boat, or an inflatable SUP. People enjoy, White Island by day and some even enjoy pitching a tent for an evening under the stars. As its name implies, it’s mostly a white sandy island with a little vegetation such as marsh hay, Greenbrier, saw palmetto, and pine trees.
If you want good seats to watch the Blue Angels Aerobatic team practice, this is the place. You can watch them flying over the clear waters of the Bayou from the deck of your inflatable SUP. Truly, a one of a kind paddling experience.
Big Lagoon State Park
One of the most beautiful State Parks in Florida, it is located in the Perdido Key Area. Big Lagoon, much like Big Sabine Bay, is a paddling paradise on your inflatable SUP. You will paddle through the coastal salt marshes. The park has a designated kayak launch, which makes it easy to access the water.
There are so many things to see from the deck of your inflatable SUP here. From the launch, you can explore a tidal creek, then paddle up to paddle around Little Lagoon. After that, you may want to paddle out into Big Lagoon and explore the beautiful coastline.
Big Lagoon State Park also happens to be the start of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. This could be an adventurous weekend experience for you and your inflatable SUP.
If you want to paddle on the Gulf side, Park East is our recommendation. On a calm, sunny day with clear water, paddling your inflatable SUP on the Gulf can be extremely rewarding.
About 500 yards off of the beach is an artificial reef for snorkeling. On a beautiful sunny day, when the water is clear and calm, you may see bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, angelfish, napper, lizardfish and many more incredible creatures. This is one of the best locations in the area for seeing wildlife on your inflatable SUP.
Island Hoping in Perdido
There are a few small islands in the coastal waters of Perdido Key where Ole River and The Inter-coastal Waterway meet. These small sandy islands have a few trees and a little vegetation with white sand beaches perfect for a paddling destination. Pack a picnic and head out on your inflatable SUP, with your friends for a perfect day out on the water.
To access these Islands, you can launch your inflatable SUP, from the public kayak launch located off River Road on Perdido Key or at the boat ramp at Galvez Landing. If you want a bigger adventure, try launching from Big Lagoon State Park and paddling the Inter-coastal Waterway to the small islands. Make sure you are prepared for a long paddle and have some snacks and water packed on your inflatable SUP.
Now you have a great collection of paddle areas that are perfectly suited for an inflatable SUP. Explore the entire Pensacola Bay Area, which has literally hundreds of miles of perfect paddling coastline.